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"The Toast of New York"

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"The Toast of New York"

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Character's Name: Nick Boyd
Release Date:  July 30, 1937
Director:  Rowland V. Lee
Studio:  RKO Radio
Running Time: 76 minutes

Cast: Edward Arnold (Jim Fisk), Cary Grant (Nick Boyd), Frances Farmer (Josie Mansfield), Jack Oakie (Luke), Donald Meek (Daniel Drew), Thelma Leeds (Fleurique), Clarence Kolb (Vanderbilt), Billy Gilbert (Photographer), George Irving (Broker), Frank M Thomas (Lawyer), Russell Hicks (Lawyer), Osscar Apfel (Wallack), Dudley Clements (Collins), Lionel Belmore (President of the Board), Robert McClung (Bellhop), Robert Dudley (Janitor), Dewey Robinson (Beef Dooley), (Stanley Fields (Top Sergeant), Gavin Gordon (Major), Joyce Compton (Mary Lou), Virginia Carroll (Virginia Lee)

- by Zoë Shaw
This is the story of Jim Fisk. He drops his medicine show at the beginning of the American Civil War, to prosper at cotton smuggling, and play the stock market. Attacked by the press for feeding on small investors, Fisk enters upon a financial struggle with Cornelius Vanderbilt. He loses, and his odd career is cut short by mob violence.

- by Donna Moore
Based on the true story of Jim Fisk, a showman and con artist, the story starts in 1861 at the outbreak of the American Civil War. Jim and his partner Nick Boyd (Cary Grant) smuggle cotton from the South to the cotton mills in the North and make a small fortune doing so. Unfortunately, their general manager in the north, Luke Hawkins, has unwisely invested the profits in Confederate bonds. They are left with "two million dollars worth of nothing".

However, undeterred they head for New York. Jim is full of schemes to make them rich and various shenanigans and financial finagling later, Jim goes into business as a stockbroker and becomes more and more successful. Jim and Nick also meet Josie, a struggling actress. Jim spots her first and lavishes money and jewels on her, but she is in love with Nick and Nick with her. However, she agrees to marry Jim because of all he has done for her.

Jim eventually becomes part owner of the Erie Railroad company but buys an opera house to showcase Josie with the stockholders' funds. Needless to say, the stockholders are not best pleased and berate Jim and Josie in public. Jim, annoyed at this, decides to show them all that he is king and comes up with a scheme to corner the market in gold. Nick acts against him to save Jim from himself.

Jim's actions start a panic and causes a crash in Wall Street and financial ruin for thousands of 'little people'. Jim has grown selfish and doesn't care about the misery he has brought people. Eventually Jim himself is ruined when the government steps in, but not before a mob arrives and Jim is shot. He realizes that he has been very wrong and he and Nick are reconciled. As he is dying he entrusts Josie to Nick.

The film is an entertaining romp, and provides an interesting view of the New York Stock Exchange in the late 1900's. Some extremely comic moments are supplied by Jack Oakie as Luke. Cary plays the charmer with his usual panache and is a sight for sore eyes in his top hat and tails.

VARIETY Film Review - July 14, 1937
- by "Flin"
- submitted by Barry Martin
Here is the life of Jim Fisk, Wall Street operator of the 80's, told in ragtime.  It's absurd biography but good entertainment despite its inanities, extravagances and exaggerations.  It is an elaborate, costly production, designed exclusively for provoking mirth.  In that respect it is successful.  Making no pretense for serious consideration as a faithful and accurate reflection of life and manners in the period it depicts, it rates as a piece of hokum aimed at the box office.  It will do business.

Stock manipulations engineered by Fisk when he was one of the most daring and hated financiers in the reckless post-Civil War era have become traditional.  Ruthless battles for corporation control during the fast commercial expansion of the country which followed the building of railroads into the west engaged the ingenuity of dominant bankers and speculative groups.  Fisk was a powerful figure in a colorful setting.  Recent years have produced no one his equal at trimming the investing public.

With such material from which to weave a screenplay, drawing also from recent best sellers, 'Robber Barons' and 'Book of Daniel Drew,' Dudley Nichols, John Twist and Joel Sayre have fashioned a broad burlesque.  Edward Arnold takes the principal role of Fisk, and other leaders in the cast are Frances Farmer, as his actress-protégé, Josie Mansfield; Cary Grant and Jack Oakie, as his business partners; Donald Meek, as Daniel Drew, and Clarence Kolb, as the senior Cornelius Vanderbilt, who is portrayed as the friend of the oppressed and Fisk's nemesis.  The list contains marquee names.  No theatre will be at a loss for advertising ammunition.

Fisk and his stooges, Boyd and Luke, are introduced as medicine show fakers in the South just before the start of the Civil War.  When hostilities commence, the trio engage in unlawful smuggling of raw cotton across the frontier for New England mills.  They make a fortune, which is soon lost and won again in the purchase and sale of steamships.  Thereafter, on the floor of the New York stock exchange, Fisk devises various schemes which culminate in a struggle with Vanderbilt for control of the Erie railroad.

Again these financial backgrounds, in which the incidents are comically revealed, Fisk also is portrayed as a generous suitor, friend and protector of the actress, Josie Mansfield, and backer of her musical production at Wallack's theatre.  On the opening night he appears before the curtain with his young star and is reviled and threatened by his enemies.  Subsequently, when warrants for his arrest are issued, he escapes to New Jersey behind an armed bodyguard.  Picture ends with his assassination, which clears the way for the girl friend and Boyd (Cary Grant) to fall into each other's arms.

Arnold plays Fisk in an expansive, light-hearted sort of way.  He is both cruel and kindly.  Jack Oakie is in there strictly for laughs and gets plenty.  A sequence in which he drills the bodyguard is highly hilarious.  Miss Farmer conveys innocence as the love interest, having very little to do.  Donald Meek clowns throughout.

Rowland L Lee's direction is straightforward and well paced.  He keeps reasonable check on the slapstick, which does not get too wild.  Production has size, if not much class.  

NEW YORK TIMES Film Review - July 23, 1937
- by Frank S. Nugent
- submitted by Barry Martin
Without even bothering to read "Robber Barons," the "Book of Daniel Drew" or the yellowed clippings in The Times files, we would not have hesitated to impugn in advance the accuracy of the Jim Fisk biography which RKO-Radio presented at the Music Hall yesterday under the somewhat flattering designation, "The Toast of New York." Just the circumstance that its screenplay was written by Dudley Nichols, Joel Sayre and John Twist would be proof enough that the treatment of facts was to be far from reverent (not that Fisk deserved reverence) and that there would be a romantic sugar-coating over all.

Yesterday's exhibit did nothing to shake our confidence in the fertile imaginations of the three writers, but that is much less to the point than our conclusion that the picture is only moderately entertaining. At its two-thirds mark we realized we had had just about enough of Edward Arnold's perennial portraits of florid, heavily jowled financial tycoons. It is not that he does not play them well; quite the contrary. But his Freebooter Fisk of nineteenth century Wall street is just a step behind his "Diamond Jim" Brady, a step to the left of his lumber baron in "Come and Get It," one to the right of his dustbowl villain in "John Meade's Woman." Mr. Arnold is getting to be to industry what George Arliss was to history: a general utility man.

The picture follows the usual tycoon pattern. There is the rise, the romance, the lust for power and the decline. Here, with the colorful background of the last century as its stage and with the spotlight turned amusingly upon Jim Fisk's unabashed rugged individualism, the film is bound to have color, comedy and a certain historic interest. Chin whiskers and helmeted policemen, buggies and horse cars, frills and flounces cast a spell. There's rowdy humor, too, in the sight of Uncle Dan'l Drew, capitally played by Donald Meek, and "Corneil" Vanderbilt brandishing buggy whips at each other in Wall Street; in the personal, Yankee horse-trading methods of the old robber barons when they were buying a steamboat line, the Erie Railroad or trying to corner the gold market.

All things considered, the picture lets Fisk off rather well - forgives him for causing Black Friday, neglects any mention of his connection with the Tweed ring, permits him to atone in a brave last speech. It treats the Josie Mansfield romance tactfully, too, presenting her in the person of Frances Farmer (which immediately inclines us to believe only the best of Josie) and adheres steadfastly to the chivalrous notion that Miss Mansfield and Fisk were only friends and that she entrusted her pure love to his partner, here Cary Grant.

Ordinarily, we would be inclined to dismiss the trite romantic set-up with the flick of a typewriter. Miss Farmer comes as close to justifying its place in the picture as any one could. In a word, a familiar, formula Arnold show, with a vigorous period to lend it interest, a tendency toward opera bouffe to weaken it. Fair is still the word.  

- by Kathy Fox
TOAST OF NEW YORK, is Cary Grant's 28th film and his only film with Frances Farmer.  Ms. Farmer accused Grant of being "an aloof, remote person, intent on being Cary Grant playing Cary Grant," which only compounded the difficulties of the production.  Six writers were hired by the studio to make the project work, using two different books, which obviously made making the movie a chore, especially for Grant, and this movie lost over $500,000.00.  Grant was finishing up making WHEN YOU'RE IN LOVE at Columbia when he started TOAST OF NEW YORK at RKO.  He renegotiated his contracts with Columbia and RKO after these films were made, with plans to make a movie for each studio every eighteen months on a rotating schedule.  Grant demanded a flat fee of $75,000 per film, but because he was still an unknown factor, the amount was reduced to $50,000.00 per film.

TOAST OF NEW YORK is a film biography based on the life of  the 19th Century American entrepreneur Jim Fisk.  He lost and made millions by gambling on stocks and bonds on Wall Street.  The story is convoluted, in my opinion, making it hard to keep track of what was what and what was the deal going down at the moment.  Grant plays Nick Boyd against Edward Arnold's Jim Fisk.  Both are in love with the same woman, Josie Mansfield, played by Frances Farmer.  There is one beautiful song in the movie, "The First Time I Saw You," sung by Farmer playing a harp.  I was surprised when looking at 70 Years of Oscar by Robert Osborne, that this song was not nominated for an Academy Award.  Fisk finally makes enough enemies and he is shot at the end, which leads the way for Boyd and Mansfield to consummate their love for one another which up until now has been thwarted because of Boyd's and Fisk's long-time friendship.  Remember, this is the movie made right before THE AWFUL TRUTH, which was Grant's most important introduction and realization of his comedic talents. 

CHICAGO DAILY TRIBUNE Film Review - August 8, 1937
- by Mae Tinée
- submitted by Renee Klish

"The Toast of New York" is a Movie Packed with Thrills

Good Morning!

Again Edward Arnold portrays a mighty oak - finally stricken to the ground by the lightnings of his own greed for power.  Again Frances Farmer plays the one woman in his life.

Cary Grant and Jack Oakie are seen as his loyal sidekicks.

They start out with him in the years before the civil war when he is a jovial, successful, and astute peddler, doing business south of the Mason and Dixon line.  War breaks out.  He corners cotton.

Years pass and he has acquired money, railroads, varied utilities, and the reputation for having "the golden touch."  He himself believes he cannot fail in anything he undertakes.

He meets Josie Mansfield, believes in her, and makes her a famous and wealthy actress, and the toast of New York.

Jim Fisk's downfall comes with his determination to corner gold.  And, apparently, he is to succeed this time, too.  But just as the taste of success is on his tongue; just as the country is on the verge of panic - Washington acts.  Gold is released from the treasury . . . And the man who played Jove finds himself as penniless as when he started and aware that Josie and Nick love each other . . . A bullet fired by a frenzied loser in the gold pandemonium spells finis to a colorful career.

But Jim has "loved every minute" of his life and dies, looking forward with gusto to eternity, and speculating as to whether the streets of heaven are REALLY paved with gold.

Jim Fisk is a well turned out characterization, but not so believable as either his Barney Glasgow in "Come and Get It" or his "Diamond Jim."  However, the big chap "gets" you with his florid assurance, his intrinsic good heartedness, and sentimentality and his loyalty to his friends.

Miss Farmer is lovely in a too colorless role for her.  She needs what she had in her first episodes of "Come and Get It."  Cary Grant and Jack Oakie qualify magnificently, and other players where quite up to snuff.

The picture, though too long, has lots of excitement, some humor, and, in the main, has been expertly produced.

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